While the Wright Brothers insisted that soaring above the earth like a bird would grant humans freedom, many people shudder at the mere thought of flying. However, you don’t need to stick to road trips just because airplanes send chills down your spine. There are many things you can do to beat your fear of flying.
1. Acknowledge and Accept Your Anxiety
A lot of people avoid flying because they know they’ll be fearful. However, just because you’ll feel anxious doesn’t mean you need to avoid planes. Acknowledge that you’ll feel anxious, but remind yourself that anxiety is tolerable. Although it might feel uncomfortable, chances are flying won’t be nearly as bad as you imagine it will.
2. Educate Yourself About Flying
When a plane crash happens, it’s big news because plane crashes are so uncommon. Thousands of successful flights happen each day.
Educate yourself about airplanes, how they work, and how unlikely they are to experience a problem. Developing a better understanding of flying can help you alleviate some of your fears.
3. Learn Relaxation Skills
Anxiety manifests itself in several ways. When people feel anxious they often develop physical symptoms of anxiety. An increased heart rate, sweating, shaking, and nausea are some of the common physical symptoms associated with anxiety.
Relaxation skills can help calm the body and the mind. Learn some relaxation skills that you can use during the flight. Deep breathing and meditation can help reduce the physical symptoms commonly associated with anxiety.
Guided imagery is another skill that can help calm your symptoms of anxiety. Guided imagery involves imagining a peaceful scene and helping your mind and body take a break from the situation at hand.
4. Conduct Some Exposure Therapy
The more you avoid flying, the less likely you are to overcome your fears. However, jumping on a 20-hour-flight will likely be too overwhelming at first. So start small and practice exposure therapy one step at a time.
Start by doing something plane-related that only stirs up some minor anxiety. For people with extreme phobias, this may include simply looking at pictures of planes or watching movies about planes. For others, it may include going to an airport and watching planes take off.
Imagining yourself taking a flight can be a helpful step too. Repeated exposure to mildly anxiety-provoking situations can help you gradually build your courage. Take things one step at a time until you can work yourself up to a short flight.
5. Seek Professional Help
Meeting with a therapist can be very helpful for overcoming phobias. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one type of therapy that has been shown to be very effective in helping people overcome fears. Therapists using cognitive behavioral therapy teach people how to recognize and change anxious thoughts, calm their physical symptoms, and gradually increase their exposure to feared objects.
Often, short-term therapy can be very effective in treating phobias. Just a few therapy sessions may make a big difference in helping you overcome your fear of flying.
6. Medicate Yourself
Talk to your doctor about medication options. Sometimes people use prescription medication to relieve anxiety associated with flying. There are several medications on the market that can be taken as needed to reduce anxiety.
7. Develop a Flight Plan
Develop a plan to help you cope with your anxiety during the flight. For example, plan to listen to relaxing music or read a good book during the flight. Distractions can help you overcome your fears.
Also, plan carefully who you’ll be flying with. Pick a companion who enjoys flying and one that will be compassionate about your anxiety. Just having someone with you that you trust may help calm a lot of your fears.